Prejudice against particularly groups within football is something we are seeing much less now than we have in the past. Only recently, British football displayed magnificent support for the LGBTQ community through the use of rainbow laces and armbands displaying much greater acceptance of all sexualities. Despite this improvement, there’s still some way to go with issues like homophobia and racism very much present in our current game. Manchester City winger, Raheem Sterling, was the latest player to face discrimination during his side’s visit to face Chelsea, a game which the Manchester side lost 2-0.
Aside from the result however, four members of the Chelsea crowd have been identified and banned from attending any matches in the future after verbally abusing the City player based on the colour of his skin. These individuals are being investigated further and could potentially face a more severe punishment. Had these individuals given someone the same racial abuse outside the stadium, and were caught, they would be facing criminal charges, which is exactly what they deserve. Why should it be any different if they are part of a crowd In a football stadium abusing players on the pitch? The only difference is those who do it in a stadium are all the more cowardly and pathetic as they know the professionals cannot retaliate in the same way someone in everyday society might.
Players facing offensive shouting and chanting has somewhat become normality within not just English, but world football. I’m sure the players expect to take a certain amount of stick off opposition fans but it’s shocking to see some of the abuse that is now viewed as acceptable. Sterling’s recent abuse is an effective example of this with it being believed one of the racist individuals will claim he yelled “Manc c***” rather than “black c***” in order to receive a much less severe punishment or avoid it altogether. This is because differentiating between the words ‘black’ and ‘Manc’ via lip-reading is virtually impossible. So, essentially what this means is that insulting someone based on their ethnicity is viewed as disgraceful, rightly so, but insulting them based on where they live, offending the thousands of people who also inhabit that particular area, is completely fine? Of course, racism has no place within football, it’s shocking it’s even still taking place in society today, but the fact that someone can avoid being punished for racism by claiming they said something which could equally offend a huge number of people is ridiculous. It is a positive that any act of racial discrimination is treated with such outrage but this is just one less issue that players can face abuse over, displaying just how far there is left to go if all discrimination is to be irradicated.
Raheem Sterling, in particular, reacted brilliantly to his abusers. Having just been the victim of such a hateful act, Raheem could hardly have been blamed if he didn’t manage to remain calm. However, he did keep his cool and responded perfectly by laughing in the faces of his abusers. The City star later took to Twitter to continue his reaction and provide his opinion on what he had experienced. One of the main points within Raheem’s argument was that the difference in media portrayal of black and white players is one of the key contributing factors to injustice he and many others like him, have experienced. He pointed out the irony of how he believes black players are portrayed in a much less positive light but how the papers are then so quick to name and shame any individual caught performing a racist act. Whilst this may well have contributed to what Sterling has experienced, I’m not here to say whether he is right or wrong. One thing I can say is that his comments only provide these embarrassing individuals with something of an excuse for their outrageous behaviour. People who are like this are not simply innocent victims who have just been mislead. If you believe yourself to be greater than another human being based on a factor which is completely out of your control, like the colour of your skin, then that is your own fault, no one else’s.
In truth, football is a sport filled with passion and love for your favourite team, which is naturally going to lead to dislike for any of your rivals. This is never not going to be the case, which is a good thing because this dislike plays a key part in creating the exciting and intense game we have all grown to love. The issues only start when this love for your own club creates discrimination towards others. The idiotic behaviour of a few individuals is tainting our beautiful game, something which everyone involved with the sport must work to prevent in the future.